Showcasing his signature sax voice for the first time, Winter has produced the most personal musical offering of his 60-year recording career.
Light of the Sun is a milestone in Paul Winter’s long musical journey; the first album he has made in which he is the featured soloist throughout.
“Since I organized my first little band in Altoona at age 12, I have always worn two musical hats: as player and bandleader,” Winter says. “But my love for playing sax has most often been overshadowed by my fascination with bands and ensembles of all kinds.”
With his early jazz sextet and with the Paul Winter Consort, which has been his forum since 1968, Winter has usually been content to play as a member of the ensemble. The premise of his bands has always been that of a musical democracy: everybody is featured, but the overall ensemble
sound is primary. However, he has long harbored the dream of creating an entire album featuring his beloved soprano sax.
“This year, having recently turned 80, I figured it was as good a time as any to do it,” Winter says.
Winter knew early on that he wanted this album to be a celebration of light. “With the title Light of the Sun, I intended to embrace the many meanings we attribute to light: light as spirit, love, consciousness, human kindness, serenity, heart, exaltation, fire, the light that is integral to beauty, and the smile that reflects the sunshine in our heart,” continues Winter. “Music is the common medium that can embody both the spiritual and physical aspects of light.”
The 15 pieces of the album include a series of new compositions, along with unique reinterpretations of iconic chestnuts from Winter’s odyssey.
Included is a trilogy of pieces featuring voices from what he calls “the greater symphony of the Earth,” saluting our three realms
of ocean (Dolphin), air (Wood Thrush), and land (Wolf).
“I have had the great privilege of recording in my three favorite sonic temples on the planet: the ‘Kiva’ of the Miho Museum in Japan; the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, where the Consort and I have been artists-in-residence since 1980; and the Grand Canyon, which has been a place of pilgrimage for me for many years,” explains Winter.
“These are places where I feel my horn realizes its true voice, acoustic spaces where its spirit-song comes alive.”
The album is structured as a journey with the Sun through the morning, afternoon, evening, and night of a day, and also through the seasons of the year.
“Light of the Sun is my testament as a sax player,” says Winter. “And in saying this, I don’t mean to imply it is my last. Actually, I’m intending it to be my first. When you arrive at 80, you need to be ready for something new.”
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“Wolf Eyes” is my honoring song to the wolf, this remarkable creature who has been maligned and mistreated by humans for so long.
The seed-theme comes from the howl of a Timber Wolf, recorded by wolf biologist Fred Harrington in the Superior National Forest of Minnesota. I had the opportunity to go there, with Fred, to listen to the wolves. He and I would go into the forest at night and howl with our voices. And once in a while, on a lucky night, we would hear, way off in the distance, a kind of lonely and lazy voice begin to rise into the night. And then others would join, and before long there was this magnificent chorus holding forth, for what seemed like a long time.
And I realized then that they were not just answering us, but that this is a ritual that is very important for them, and one in which they engage several times every day. They may be howling to affirm their togetherness as a pack; or to announce to neighboring packs that "this is our territory, and we are strong"; or perhaps they howl simply to celebrate being alive.
Hearing them in the night, I had the thought that we, as a much younger species, might learn something from these elders of ours, about the importance of that kind of ritual — of giving voice together each day, in whatever way we might choose. I wanted to make music then about the feeling I had, while listening to their chorus. It was not the kind of spine-tingling thing you often hear people describe, since I knew that wolves are not a threat to humans. There has never been an authenticated case of a healthy wolf attacking a human in North America.
For me, it was a kind of feeling of deep peace inside, as if I had been, through them, reconnected to this larger family of life, of which we once were a much more integral part; as if I had been, through their music, made whole. So I imagined making music about the more gentle side of these creatures, who are often regarded as the model parents of the animal world.
The title of this piece comes from the first experience I had looking into the eyes of a wolf, up close. And this was a captive wolf, who looked back at me directly with these deep amber eyes, in which I sensed not only his curiosity about me, but the wisdom of his 30 million years of heritage, more than 100 times as long as our species, homo sapiens, has been around. I’ve never been fully able to describe this feeling with words, so I’m grateful to make an attempt in this piece I call “Wolf Eyes.”
(Dedication: to the Very Rev. James Parks Morton, former dean of New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine)
from Light of the Sun,
released November 13, 2020
Written by the Timber Wolf, Paul Winter,
(Living Earth Music, BMI)
Paul Winter / soprano sax
Eugene Friesen / cello
Warren Bernhardt / piano
Jeff Holmes / piano
Oscar Castro-Neves /
Dave Carpenter / bass
Timber Wolf recorded by Fred
Harrington, in the Superior National
Katydids courtesy August night-
forest, Litchfield, Connecticut
Paul Winter is a seven-time Grammy-winning saxophonist, whose sextet was the first jazz group to perform at the White House
in 1962. His second group, the Paul Winter Consort, interweaves sounds from the natural world with classical and ethnic traditions, and the spontaneous spirit of jazz. Their annual Winter Solstice Celebrations and Earth Mass are among the most popular events in New York....more